‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Meets 1940s Italy at the Gene Frankel Theatre

Much Ado About Nothing Photo by Rob Klein. Matt McGlade (Ursula), Brandon Thomas Lima (Margaret), Jordan Elizabeth Gelber (Hero) & Kaitlyn Mitchell (Beatrice).

Kelsey Grammer & Faith American Brewing Company’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare, playing at the Gene Frankel Theatre, was a nice show to watch on a rainy Saturday night. The show revolves around two characters tricked into loving each other, a brother who attempts to destroy his sibling’s marriage, and all the complex family dynamics in between. The 16th-century play is one of many funny and relatable pieces created by Shakespeare, and this production, interestingly, is set in 1940s Italy.

Many unique factors were introduced in this rendition of the play. I enjoyed the aspect of live music and the ways it was integrated into the setting. One of the side characters was placed on the side of the stage, playing piano throughout the show. Whether it was background music or vocal accompaniment, the music added texture to the plot. In intense scenes, the music reflected the darker nature of the characters. And during more comedic moments, the piano reflected the light-hearted nature of the scenes. The actor who played the piano (Cedric Allen Hills) was one of my favorites, as the way he was able to separate his dialogue from the music was impressive and tastefully done. At some points throughout the play, another character would enter with a drum and join the piano, creating a new sound for the setting. I found these little elements to be very refreshing, as the audience wasn’t constrained to the dialogue. 

Another factor added was the fashion. Rather than adopt 16th-century styles, the costume design was intentionally more modern. I found the almost 20th-century style to be very fitting for the production. The long dresses and suits engrained the high-class atmosphere that the characters were living in. Many times, the love pairings were seen wearing the same colors, which were either pink or red. I appreciated the subtle details that were added to sculpt the relationships of the characters. When the play is spoken in old English, the use of clothing to shape a story can be very helpful to a wider audience.

Much Ado About Nothing Photo by Rob Klein. Kaitlyn Mitchell (Beatrice) and Jake Minevich (Benedick).

“Much Ado About Nothing” is a classic that I believe everyone must see at least once. For someone who is curious about this play but doesn’t handle old English well, Kelsey Grammer & Faith American Brewing Company’s rendition of this play is the one for you! Through its unique styling choices, the play is easy to follow along and quite funny. It is important to mention that the play is two hours long, and for an individual who is new to Shakespeare, this might be overwhelming. Overall, I would recommend this play to a Shakespeare theatre kid, a comedy lover, or simply a curious individual who is open to untraditional styles of theatre. Make sure to go watch it before it’s gone! 

Get tickets HERE to see the show now through June 30th!

And check out my other theatre reviews HERE.

Laurynas Bruzga
Laurynas Bruzga

Laurynas Bruzga is currently enrolled as a student at Hunter College, where he is pursuing a major in Theatre. Having been in New York City for only a year, he is already beyond inspired and amazed by the theatre space within the city. Laurynas has previously written review articles for school-associated newspaper clubs, and has always loved writing and discussing the media that he consumes! Additionally, he is a member of Beauty News NYC's theatre writing program for New York City college students, Student Scene.